California Bill Blocking School Boards From Excluding ‘Diverse’ Books Advances

California Bill Blocking School Boards From Excluding ‘Diverse’ Books Advances

The California State Capitol building in Sacramento on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

7/10/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

A California Assembly bill that would prohibit local school boards from excluding books that contain “diverse perspectives”—including critical race theory and gender ideology—is a step closer to becoming law.
After approval by the state Assembly in May, Assembly Bill 1078 passed 5–2 in the Senate Education Committee on July 5, with Sens. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa) and Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) dissenting.
The proposal will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks.
Assemblyman Corey Jackson (D-Riverside), who introduced the legislation, said its aim is to address some California school boards that have recently removed books “not based on character but because of race, because of someone’s sexuality.”
“These book bans deny students their right to access a broad range of stories and perspectives and they create restrictions on teaching and learning, which impacts our educators and librarians and silences authors, most of whom [are] from marginalized communities,” Mr. Jackson said during the hearing.
The bill would ban school boards from excluding books due to topics related to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. To exclude a book for any other reason, the bill requires a two-thirds supermajority of the respective school board’s vote.
Newly donated LGBT books are displayed in the library at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Newly donated LGBT books are displayed in the library at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The bill also requires audits of library and classroom books, with potential funding penalties for districts that have insufficient diverse instructional materials, according to California Department of Education’s standards.
During the hearing, lawmakers debated the issue, including who should make such decisions.
State Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) said she believes such responsibility rests with the state.
“There is local control and there is a state responsibility,” she said. “I think this is a forward-looking policy.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Ochoa Bogh said she thinks legislators focus too much on discussions of diversity instead of academics and cost of living, which she said were forefront issues in the minds of her constituents.
“We focus so much on color of skin, gender, sexuality, versus the content of character,” she said.
Californians on both sides of the issue spoke passionately about the bill during the hearing.
Speaking in favor, one Temecula Valley Unified School District teacher mentioned her district, which was recently the subject of statewide controversy after it rejected in May a social studies textbook with supplemental materials that included a book that referenced LGBT activist Harvey Milk.
The board’s president, Joseph Komrosky, said he objected to the book because of reports that Milk was a “pedophile” and had a sexual relationship with a minor when he was 33 years old.
“I’ve witnessed the consequences of curriculum denied in our community,” the teacher said.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond also spoke in support of the bill, saying he values local control—but that doesn’t include the right to “threaten and bully students.”
“Having recently visited Temecula Valley, I can tell you our students ... feel threatened. They feel attacked. They feel mistreated,” Mr. Thurmond said. “They simply want to gain access to information that is proven to benefit them. Inclusive education benefits students academically.”
California State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond holds the book "Red: A Crayon's Story" during a news conference at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond holds the book "Red: A Crayon's Story" during a news conference at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A representative from the California Teachers’ Association said they have a “neutral position,” but thanked the proposal’s author for including the organization in a working group on the issue.
Others strongly oppose the measure, saying it strips control from local officials, who were elected to represent the desires of their community.
Jennifer Kennedy, an attorney and member of parent advocacy group Our Duty, likened the bill to “tyranny.”
“What this bill is designed to do is to come down and micromanage those school board members, to come down and make sure the material the state wants to see in schools—which is the ‘inclusive’ LGBT agenda,” Ms. Kennedy said. “We are talking about codifying government tyranny. We’re talking about the state becoming Big Brother.”
A representative for the California School Board Association also told the committee it has concerns about possible repercussions if the bill is enacted.
“We’re concerned that it [could create] a troubling precedent going forward,” the representative said.
He additionally said the association thinks the measure’s financial penalties go “in the wrong direction” and could harm a district’s educational programs.
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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

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Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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